Hey, straight cis people aren’t the only ones who need a vacation! Of course they generally don’t have to wonder if they might get beaten or killed on vacation just for holding hands with their partner or wearing clothes closest to their own gender identity. Still, LGBT tourism has becoming a thriving new business advent with cities around the world hoping to capitalize on wealthy queers looking for a fun getaway. In fact, many tourism websites of major cities now feature small blurbs about things for the LGBT traveler to enjoy. So whether you’re looking for international drag scenes, gay history, museums, nightclubs, or all of the above, here are six of the best gay cities to visit.
Prague, Czech Republic
While not quite as flashy or expensive as some other European tourist destinations, Prague is still a popular city for tourism due to its long history and breathtaking architecture. However, despite the breadth of history on display, Prague is still a remarkably progressive city within a country that has been generally progressive since the fall of communism, especially when compared to some of its close neighbors. Registered partnerships for gay couples were first introduced in the Czech Republic way back in 2006, and Prague held its first Pride Parade in 2011. Not to mention, the Czech Republic has been home to the huge annual multi-city queer film festival, the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, for the last 17 years.
Philadelphia has had a thriving gay scene that dates back to the 1930s and ’40s, beginning with a few discrete bars and coffeehouses before emerging into a full-on “Gayborhood”, as it is affectionately known, with nightclubs, performance centres, bars, restraunts, and shops. In 2004 the city of Brotherly Love put out one of the first ever tourism ads directed toward LGBT folks, featuring the tagline “Get Your History Straight, and Your Nightlife Gay.”
Prior to the Nazis, Berlin actually had a vibrant LGBT scene, with famous cabarets and a cosmopolitan flair for the diverse, not to mention the Institute for the Science of Sexuality (whose papers of groundbreaking research on gender and sexuality were all burned in 1933). It was a hub for gay European expats and artists such as the famous English writer Christopher Isherwood. Today, Berlin has revived this spirit with museums, arts institutions, clubs, and many queer bookstores.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio has always been a popular tourist spot in general, especially for LGBT folks. In fact, it’s been estimated that around a million LGBT people visit Rio de Janeiro every year, and it’s not hard to see why. With its incredible beaches, rich nightlife with clubs and bars, many shops, luxury hotels, and historical neighborhoods, Rio de Janeiro has earned its well-deserved spot on many lists as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Rio also has one of the biggest Pride Parades in the world and even gay-specific activities during the famous Rio Carnival.
Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa is frequently cited as being one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Africa. Indeed, the post-apartheid constitution, written in 1994, outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and in 1998 the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that a law prohibiting consensual gay sex was unconstitutional, and South Africa has had marriage equality since 2005. Within Cape Town you can find beaches, nightclubs, and other fun attractions. Additionally, since 1994 Cape Town has hosted the Mother City Queer Project, a yearly costume festival meant to celebrate the multiple and diverse queer communities in Cape Town.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
You might think that the much larger tourist attractions of cities like Guadalajara and Acapulco would be on this list, but in recent years Puerto Vallarta has become a beacon of LGBT tourism in Mexico, attracting both international visitors as well as domestic tourists. Sitting right on the western coast of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta boasts beautiful beaches, pride celebrations since 2013, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.